ALL LAWS can now be challenged in court. Laws included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution by Parliament to put them outside the purview of the court, were also open to judicial scrutiny, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
The historic verdict will have far-reaching consequences for many of the 284 laws presently in the Ninth Schedule. Among these are the Tamil Nadu law that provides for 69 per cent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions. The Supreme Court’s cap on reservation quotas is 50 per cent.
Any exercise to push through the recent 27 per cent quota law for students from Other Backward Classes in central educational institutions -- as demanded by some allies of the UPA government – is going to be tough.
A nine-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal said: “Justification for conferring protection, not blanket protection, on the laws included in the Ninth Schedule by Constitutional amendments shall be a matter of Constitutional adjudication by examining the nature and extent of infraction of a Fundamental Right….”
The bench said the authority to enact a law and decide the legality of the limitations cannot be vested in one organ. The validity of the limitations on fundamental rights must be examined by “another independent organ, namely, the judiciary”.
The ruling comes a day after the court. in the MPs’ expulsion case, held that Parliament’s power to take action against its erring members was subject to judicial review.
The court, however, upheld the validity of Article 31-B of the Constitution, which empowers Parliament to place laws in the Ninth Schedule. But it said that even if an Act is included in the Ninth Schedule, its provisions would be open to attack “on the ground that they destroy or damage the basic structure (of the Constitution), if the Fundamental Rights are taken away or abrogated pertaining to the basic structure”.